Sunday, November 22, 2009
Today at church, Pastor Charlotte told us she had made a covenant with other local pastors to avoid complaining for at least ninety days. She told us about AComplaintFreeWorld.com and asked us if we wanted to join her in this quest. Then she passed out purple Complaint-Free bracelets for everyone to wear as reminders. Wow- this is just what I need right now! I enthusiastically raised my hand and accepted the bracelet and the challenge. (And guess what, Honey, since you couldn't be there today, I picked up a purple bracelet for you too! After twenty-nine years of marriage, just let me say, birds of a feather.....)
Complaining is a nice polite word for activities such as whining, criticizing, nagging, and a few others that we all know well. Where does all this negativity come from? And where does it lead?
Yes, I'm a whiner. And worse, upon reflection, I'm realizing that I complain about the same things over and over and over. I complain about little things, big things, silly things, important things, things that do need to be changed, and things that no one could change. I even complain about things that are none of my business. What good is this doing me or anyone else? I know that I don't want to continue adding negativity to the world, and I do pledge to try to improve.
I think complaining stems from a sense of powerlessness. We whine when we feel as if we have too little power in our world, and sometimes this gives us a boost of temporary, negative power, as we gleefully find we have the magical ability to ruin someone else's day. I'm talking about adults now, but you all know that it starts in toddlerhood, and the power dynamics are exactly the same.
When I use most of my energy expressing complaints, I find that I've got little energy left over to work on positive things. And this, I think, is the best reason for wearing this purple bracelet and trying to keep up with Pastor Charlotte in her efforts to become complaint-free.
It doesn't work very well to eliminate a behavior without replacing it with a new, more positive one. Just saying to myself, "Don't complain" wouldn't be very helpful to me unless I think about what I could do instead. So I've spent the afternoon thinking about what I can do instead of all my complaining.
But some things do need to be criticized, and some things do need to be changed. I wouldn't want to stop complaining, if that meant I had to become a person who never thinks about things deeply enough to see the problems. But here are a few things I think could be more effective than complaining:
1. WORKING TO SOLVE PROBLEMS
Think and talk about the issues from a "how might we solve this?" viewpoint, rather than a complaining one.
2. LISTENING TO OTHERS' POINTS OF VIEW
I often need to be reminded to shut up and listen. When I'm complaining, I'm taking up more than my share of air-time.
3. ASKING QUESTIONS
I will learn more and accomplish more when I open up the "curiosity" part of my brain, and learn to ask the right questions.
4. COLLABORATING, AND REALIZING THAT TWO OR MORE HEADS ARE BETTER THAN ONE
No, I cannot do it all better myself. I've learned over and over that I need the help, ideas, input, and nudging of other people in my life, even when I disagree with them. It's just the control-freak in me that wants to be the lone-wolf sometimes. Come on, Annie, you do NOT know everything. Get over it!
5. THINKING CREATIVELY
Use the creative genius inside for more than home decorating and great curriculum activities. Use it to help accomplish real good in the world, and to help other people.
6. VISUALIZING RESULTS
How can I know where I'm trying to end up, if I can't visualize it?
7. WORKING ON BEING A BETTER COMMUNICATOR
There are many other ways to connect with people and to express myself. I need to discover them and practice them.
8. FEELING AND EXPRESSING GRATITUDE
To me this is the most important thing. For me, when I am in a grateful attitude, it leads me right toward items 1 through 7, above. When I'm being thankful, I have no time left over to complain and I just don't feel like complaining then, anyway. So our choir’s music today was very appropriate: we sang For The Beauty Of The Earth, by John Rutter. It’s always been one of my favorite pieces, but today it meant a little more.
Ok, Charlotte. The challenge is on. Thanks for the kick in the pants. I'm pretty sure that I can be a better teacher, parent, friend, neighbor, and citizen if I work on this. It sure makes me think about what amazing things we could accomplish if large numbers of us work on it together.
Anyone interested in joining me as I try to avoid complaining between now and Valentines Day? I ordered a few more purple bracelets. Let me know if you want one.
Posted by ANNIE CASTLE DECKERT, M.ED.PSYCH.